Terminator and Avatar director James Cameron hasn’t had the coziest relationship with the superhero movie genre of late. Last year the director criticized Wonder Woman. He called the film a step backward for female protagonists. But now it seems the man who brought us Skynet is taking aim at the Avengers.
While promoting his most recent project, a docuseries called AMC Visionaries: James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction, he had some choice words for the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War film.
“I’m hoping we’ll start getting Avenger fatigue here pretty soon. Not that I don’t love the movies. It’s just, come on guys, there are other stories to tell besides hyper-gonadal males without families doing death-defying things for two hours and wrecking cities in the process. It’s like, oy!”
To be fair, I understand where James is coming from. For some people, the current formula for comic book movies really hasn’t been that groundbreaking with a few exceptions. Logan, for example, took the character to a place that it hasn’t gone before on the big screen.
One thing that made Logan so refreshing was his honest reaction to fatherhood. Logan doesn’t’ want anything to do with Laura in the movie at first. He rejects offers of money and does his best to avoid the entire situation. But as the movie goes on and they grow together, we witness Logan growing from a stale, worn, and trapped man to a father figure that reawakens some of the greatest traits of the Wolverine.
In a lot of ways, that lack of strong men with families is something that Marvel has only danced around. For example, in Avengers: Age of Ultron with Hawkeye we saw a man whose character is taken to the next level. When he opens his home to the rest of Avengers, we see a different side to the character. We see his paternal instincts kick in. It’s unfortunate that Marvel has yet to follow up with that depth in a character. Although we do see Tony’s love for his family in Captain America: Civil War. However, in that case it’s uncontrollable rage being fueled by the loss of his parents.
Marvel’s TV counterparts have had more success given the TV platform. We see Matt Murdock and Kingpin’s relationships with their fathers explored. On the one end we see Murdock has a caring and loving father, who albeit makes some mistakes is trying to do his best for his family. On the other hand Kingpin’s father is abusive and sends his son down a terrible path. Marvel TV did a great job showing how the two childhoods were vastly different, but in the end they both still have the same motivation – to make New York City a better place. The problem is how they go about doing it. You see the debate of nature versus nurture with the abuse of Kingping’s father to him and his mother while Matt’s Dad struggles to do the right thing.
I think what Cameron is saying is he’s looking for something different in the Sci-Fi world. When you compare it with modern comic book movies, Sci-Fi has been much more willing to take those chances. While I agree with his general sentiment, I don’t see the action towards that.
Mr. Cameron’s own track record doesn’t show any progress to create anything different. He’s currently working on yet another Terminator reboot. Not to mention he’s supposedly working on at least four more Avatar sequels. Now granted Sarah Connor is a tough, strong female character, but the movies are really about the Terminator. Talk about a male character “doing death-defying things for two hours and wrecking cities in the process. It’s like, oy!” Avatar is similar as well. I mean Stephen Lang’s Colonel Miles Quaritch leads a mission to destroy the Na’vi’s home city. These are pretty common tropes.
In general, the Sci-Fi genre has a rich history of taking on norms, stretching what you can and cannot do in entertainment and the imagination. SyFy’s Dark Matter showed the possibilities of radical changes to characters’ lifestyles. Former criminals and thugs made the choice to become something better. In fact, they put their own lives on the line over and over for a galaxy who thinks they are criminals.
But like many genres it feels like an air of staleness has taken hold. I do feel a little worried and sympathize with Cameron’s thoughts. Currently, there is no other better example of this then the current iteration of Star Trek, Star Trek Discovery. It heavily borrows from the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies. We see this not only with some of the visual effects (lens flaring), but also with the theme and atmosphere that has become the first season. Not to mention the Klingons and their odd appearance just screams Star Trek: Into Darkness.
With that said. It feels like Sci-Fi isn’t ready for another golden age. People are ready for intelligent movies. Last year’s Get Out and It showed that horror, which has over the last twenty years become a gore and nudity fest could be deeper. This is an idea that I believe Cameron wants to spread to Sci-Fi, a genre that in many ways has been the pioneer of new ideas.
What do you think of James Cameron’s comments? Does he have a point, or are you hoping that the torch is passed successfully off into the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Tell us in the comments below!